Americans’ understanding of tech-related matters varies widely, but, most alarming, is that many people show a lack of knowledge when it comes to issues related to security and privacy, according to a new study.
Most of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center were able to answer questions correctly about phishing scams and website cookies, but only 28% of adults could identify two-factor authentication, identified by experts as one of the most important ways of protecting personal data.
And only around a quarter of people (24%) knew that private browsing only hides your browsing history from other users of the computer you use to search on, and not from network providers, websites and employers if a computer is used at work. In addition, almost half (49%) said they were unsure what private browsing does.
Pew researchers asked subjects ten questions on a range of digital subjects, such as security and the business side of social media companies. The median number of correct answers was four, and only 20% of those quizzed answered seven or more correctly, with just 2% getting all ten questions correct.
Perhaps least surprisingly, those who had higher levels of education tended to score highest, as did those under the age of 50. Researchers questioned 4,272 adults from across the US.
The majority of those questioned (67%) knew that phishing scams can take place via various platforms, such as SMS, social media or websites. And 63% knew cookies are text files that track users’ site visits and their activity. A majority (59%) also knew that ads were the largest revenue stream for most social media sites.
But only three in ten adults knew that a site address starting with https:// meant that information entered on that site is encrypted. And only 28% could cite an example of two-factor authentication, where at least two of the following are used to identify a user: a password, using an outside source they possess, like a phone number or token key; or through something like a fingerprint.
Americans’ knowledge of social media companies was also found to be relatively poor. Only 29% of people could name WhatsApp and Instagram as two companies Facebook owns. And when people were shown a picture of Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, just 15% knew who he was.
Sourced from Pew Research Center; additional content by WARC staff